Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 4/2/24

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks! Welcome to my first (solo) chat of the 2024 season. I’ve got a piece today about Ronel Blanco’s no-hitter here https://blogs.fangraphs.com/on-a-day-for-no-hit-bids-astros-righty-ron…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: And yesterday I wrote about the Yankees’ hot start thanks to Juan Soto and the fill-ins for injured third baseman DJ LeMahieu https://blogs.fangraphs.com/juan-soto-and-the-third-base-fill-ins-star…

JT: Is Ronel Blanco fur realz or should we be very, very worried as Blue Jays fans that Mark Shapiro loves glove first non-hitters?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Blanco had his changeup working last night, and it baffled the Blue Jays. They have the potential for a pretty decent offense, but punting on third base by letting Matt Chapman go and replacing him with Isiah Kiner-Falefa is going to cost them, and I’m not wild about their second base situation either.

slave to 25 PA: I know Mike Trout’s not gonna maintain a .900 slugging, but am I wrong to be a little hopeful he makes a bounce back. I am worried about his whiff rate.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: after getting just 237 games over the past three seasons, I’m glad to see any Mike Trout, and holy smokes did he destroy that baseball. 473 feet! and that was just one of his homers https://www.mlb.com/video/mike-trout-drills-a-473-foot-homer-run

Avatar Jay Jaffe: That said, you’re right that he’s got a lot more swing and miss lately. His strikeout rate jumped from about 21% from 2011-20 to 28% over the past three seasons and I’m not clear why. Might be worth a closer look if it persists

Al: I was skeptical about Volpe presumably hitting the ball in the air less by flattening his attack angle but SSS be damned its night and day from 2023. Quite impressive

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think people — especially Yankees fans — forget how young Volpe is. He’ll turn 23 later this month, is hardly a finished product, and has a ton of offensive upside. Dan Szymborski included him on his ZiPS breakouts list https://blogs.fangraphs.com/szymborskis-2024-booms-and-busts-hitters/. I expect him to improve significantly year-over-year relative to last season

Avatar Jay Jaffe: And I do think that with the arrival of Juan Soto, the Yankees’ offense has a very different vibe about it.

Cromulent: Thanks for chatting Jay. Curious for your historically-oriented take. If we ever get to automated balls and strikes, what’s the legacy of the pitch framing era? “Stealing strikes” or something more nuanced? How if at all does that change catcher evaluation?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think maybe we’ll look back on it like the high mounds of the 1960s, a time when the rules and the style of play were favorable for a certain type of player before being somewhat neutralized through rule changes.

That said, I don’t think we’re going to get a full ABS (automatic ball and strike) system anytime soon. It sounds as though what we’ll eventually get is a challenge system, and while that would reduce the impact of framing it wouldn’t entirely negate it.

Stephen: RE: Yankees off to a hot start: could it just be that they have more good players than last year, replacing guys like Willie Calhoun and Franchy Cordero with Juan Soto rather than some grand narrative about hitting coaches and a new mentality (grinding ABs). After all, they were 7th in pitches per plate appearance last year but they just had a lot of bad hitters who couldn’t do damage.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: They did give an inordinate number of plate appearances to Quad-A hackers, with Jake Bauers and Billy McKinney getting even more PA than the two guys you named. However, I do expect signficant improvement from Volpe, Oswaldo Cabrera (who was worse than the Quad-A guys), Stanton, and Rizzo, and despite my general distaste for Alex Verdugo, he’s a big step up from the aforementioned as well

v2micca: I know it is really really early, but as a Braves fan that also enjoys watching the Mets suffer, is it time to get excited about the possibility of Kelenic tormenting the Mets for years to come?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: You’d hardly be the first to dream on Kelenic becoming a good major leaguer, but the woods are filled with people utterly broken while waiting for that to happen. Caveat emptor.

Sharps: If you and your kid were fans of a mediocre-to-bad team this year (coughnationalscough), what national stories would have you excited for baseball?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Off the top of my head, not necessarily in order: the arrival of Yamamoto, the new-look Dodgers, Juan Soto back in the Eastern time zone, the return of O’Neill Cruz (and signs of life in Pittsburgh?), the Rangers with Wyatt Langford and Evan Carter,  the rookie Jacksons (Chourio, Merrill, and eventually Holliday), a functional Mike Trout, the question of whether the Orioles can follow up last year’s 100-win season…

Guest: Are the Red Sox going surprise people this year? Or still not enough quality arms?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t see them having enough starting pitching. They’ve done very well the first time through the rotation, but let’s see if it sticks

seth r: joey votto should be on an MLB roster

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think he will be, but let’s remember he just signed with the Blue Jays about 3 weeks ago and needs some at-bats under game conditions to get ready. He had just one in an official exhibition game, homered on the first pitch he saw, and then rolled his right ankle in the dugout right afterwards and didn’t play again.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Look for him in late April or early May

Dancin’ Dan McGraw: Yankees offer Soto a 10 year/500 mil deal with an opt out after year 5 and 6.  Does this get it done?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Probably but he might want those opt-out years closer to the front of the deal.

sliptoad: in honor of blanco, which do you prefer in a no-hitter– aces dominating or someone coming out of nowhere and having the night of their life?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Why not both? I do think it’s pretty great when we get journeymen and comparatively obscure guys having the night of their life, though. Edwin Jackson, Philip Humber, Bud Smith, Mike Fiers (twice!) and so on

Jimmers: Why are people pushing for Vizquel in the HOF because of his defense but not Andrue Jones (based on defense)? Is it because his defensive peak was shorter? I don’t get it.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Leaving aside both players’ off-field issues (both were arrested for domestic violence, for one thing), the difference seems to be that Vizquel had enough longevity to approach 3,000 hits despite being one of the worst hitters  of the modern era; his 82 OPS+ is tied with two HOF shortstops, Rabbit Maranville and Luis Aparicio, for the lowest of any player with at least 2,500 hits. Jones on the other hand lacked longevity and basically fell apart physically and perhaps mentally after signing a big free agent deal with the Dodgers. Never mind the fact that the defensive metrics are much more supportive of Jones, who was also an above-average hitter and accumulated about 17 more WAR in ~3500 fewer PA

erghammer: With all the research you’ve done about the guys who are in the Hall, who maybe should be in the Hall, etc., have you ever thought “my gut tells me this guy should be in but a case for it can’t be built around conventional metrics,” and then you went out and looked for unconventional metrics or even started to think up a new metric for measuring the player’s impact?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I wouldn’t do that in support of any one player because that’s bad process that undermines the credibility of the underlying work. But I’ve messed around with how I evaluate relievers in a few different ways, and I’ve done so more recently with starters, too. The goal isn’t to justify why, say, Dave Stieb should be in the Hall, it’s to see if we can find some separation and therefore equitable means of recognizing the best from among a sizable group that came and went from ballots in the blink of an eye, with Stieb one of the top candidates within that group.

If I can do it in a way that first convinces myself and then extends to other voters, whether it’s Stieb, Cone, Hershiser, Santana or somebody(s) else, THAT is what I’m aiming for.

Wild Bill: Ideal composition of Os infield? I say Mountcastle/Ohearn platoon at First, Holliday at 2nd, Gunnar at Short and Westburg at third once Holliday is called up hopefully soon.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think that looks about right but maybe it’s Coby Mayo at first base at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Brad Radke’s Burner: When do you think, if ever, Johan Santana will appear on a committee ballot?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: He’s not even eligible until after what would have been his 10-year run on the BBWAA ballot ends in 2027. The next available ballot under the current structure would be 2029, but the competition for ballot space is going to be fierce, and the fact that he got less than 5% works against him when you’re talking about competition that got percentages that were an order of magnitude higher and then some.

Only Fan(atic)s: Convince me that the E. Ruiz demotion isn’t about as blatant tanking as it gets

Avatar Jay Jaffe: He was a 1.3-WAR player in regular duty last year, not the second coming of Rickey Henderson. This may well be service time manipulation but it’s not like he doesn’t have areas where he could improve given his lack of plate discipline and inability to hit the ball hard so far.

Sandwich: Bryce elder pitched 180 innings last year was very good for a vast majority of them. Why is there still so much doubt just because he throws 88

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Throws 88 and doesn’t strike many hitters out. That said, he’s shown he can deliver bulk innings at a better-than-average rate, and the Braves will almost certainly need him to plug a hole in their rotation soon enough.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: This applies more to the Ruiz situation than to the Elder one but sometimes having minor league options can really work against a player at this time of year. The A’s just picked up Tyler Nevin on waivers, and he’s out of options, where Ruiz is not. They have a chance to evaluate whether the new guy can help them without the risk of losing much.

Kiermaier’s Piercing Green Eyes: I read that last night’s no-hitter was the earliest ever. What ahistorical poppycock is this? Literally every other no-hitter ever came before it!

Avatar Jay Jaffe: womp womp

Avatar Jay Jaffe: earliest by calendar date in a season

bosoxforlife: Are you happy with the game as it is now with fewer base hits but more power and strikeouts?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’ve come around to wanting to see more hits, higher batting averages, and fewer three-true-outcomes. This may be the year you finally get my treatise, “Let’s Give a Shit About Batting Average Again.”

Tigers fan: Which current hitters 26 and under do you think are most likely to make the HOF?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Soto and Ronald Acuña Jr. with a big gap ahead of everybody else, then a fwq from among Adley Rutschman, Julio Rodríguez, Michael Harris II, Gunnar Henderson, Corbin Carroll, maybe Fernando Tatis Jr. if he can put in about 15 years of model citizenship

Marshall: Does Mookie Betts have a better chance at unanimous HOF induction than Mike Trout? I get the sense that Mookie is universally loved in a way that Trout isn’t.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think that’s just recency bias getting the better of you. Trout is a year older and has 20 WAR and two MVP awards on Betts, who obviously makes up some ground by playing on better teams.

Tigers fan: In the future will fans and HOF voters need to adjust their criteria moving from counting statistics like 3000 hits, 500 HR, 300 wins to less tradition statistics like WAR, wRC, and OPS+?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: it’s already happening. Consider recent HOF position players such as Raines, Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker, Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, Joe Mauer… none of them reached the 3000 or 500 milestones. on the pitching side, three of the last four starters (Mussina, Pedro, Smoltz) were short of 300 wins.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: JAWS, baby.

Mets: Its never too early in Flushing to get that sinking feeling.  Minor leaguers are dissing the major league team publicly.  The leadership problem appears to continue to swirl.  Any early thoughts?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think the Mets have confused the public and themselves as to what their intentions are for this year. By trading Scherzer and Verlander last year and then staying out of the deep end of the free agent pool this year, they made it pretty apparent that in the short term they don’t expect to contend unless they luck into it. Things like the signing of J.D. Martinez and the demotion of Vientos sort of cloud that.

Josh: Did you get a chance to watch Bobby Miller’s start last week? Are you as excited about his season as me? He looked absolutely dominant.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Oh, I’m very high on Miller. Like Walker Buehler before him, he’s got an arrogance and intensity with regards to his mound presence to go with the great stuff, and I think he’s capable of being the team’s #1 or #1A starter

CardsBadMakesMeSad: Jordan Walker has shown improved discipline in the early-going, but the batted ball numbers still leave a lot to be desired. Think he turns the corner this summer and starts demolishing baseballs?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I do think Walker will take a step forward. His early numbers are ugly but come on, we’re talking about four games worth of data.

Byoung: Early April games when weather is at its worst should mostly be between divisional foes in case of rainouts. Thoughts?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: In theory that works but the problem is that most of the teams are concentrated in the northern half of the US, where temperatures are cooler. There simply aren’t enough warm-weather or covered sites to keep baseball out of the cold in April.

Luke: Hi Jay, how likely do you think the rally Reds are to keep their ability to win 1 run games over the course of the season? After last season and the first few games this year I’m starting to feel dangerously hopeful….

Avatar Jay Jaffe: While a good bullpen certainly helps, winning one-run games isn’t a reliable predictor of winning more one-run games

Avatar Jay Jaffe: in other words, you should be braced for some regression eventually — but if you and the Reds are lucky, maybe it will hold out long enough that the team is contending for something

Anil: Bailey Ober? Any thoughts

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Guy got bombed in one start? I think you’re oberreacting

Avatar Jay Jaffe: TRY THE VEAL!

Austin: They haven’t been dominant but has the Tigers start altered the outlook for their season? Their pitching has looked quite good to start the year.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Thanks to the development of some of their young players, the Tigers do seem to be a team poised for a breakthrough in a division that looks even more winnable now that the Twins have lost Royce Lewis for a month or more.

Benny: With Greinke a free agent and Kershaw, Scherzer, and Verlander on the IL (not to mention deGrom and Cole), which active non-injured MLB pitcher is most likely to make the Hall of Fame someday?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’d put Jansen and Kimbrel at higher odds than any starter besides Cole, but assuming you’re asking about starters, I’d go with Zack Wheeler. He’s a few WAR behind teammate Aaron Nola but is trending much better lately

John Darc: Does your kid like Juan Soto?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: She hasn’t seen much of him yet, just a few games with him on the Padres. I expect that to change.

HOF: How do you feel about the players who had great but shorter careers?  I always thought guys like Wright and Mattingly should be in.  The back of Oliva’s bb card is loaded with bold print – he was great from day 1 for 9 years and it took forever to get in.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: The longer I’ve done Hall evaluations, the more I’ve come around toward higher peak guys with shorter careers. Nonetheless, I think the peaks of the guys you mention were a bit too short or otherwise limited for me to give them strong consideration. Wright’s 39.5 WAR seven-year peak (WAR7) is less than four wins off the peak standard for 3B, likewise for Oliva in RF. Mattingly is 6.2 short at 1B (nearly a win per year). Dale Murphy is about 3.5 short of the peak standard in CF AND had the two MVP awards, i’ve come around a bit on him.

JD: When do the small sample sizes of early season actually matter to you? Like, what kinds of things do you look for that actually seem to provide something tangible to go on, rather than just a blip in a long season?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Different stats stabilize at different sample sizes, and over the next few months we’ll be writing about that a lot. 60 batted balls is one important threshold that I’m particularly mindful of .

jackal: Do you think Lourdes Gurriel can have a late career leap forward?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: He’s 30 and has nearly 2,500 PA in his career and 8.9 fWAR/10.9 bWAR. Set career highs in both WARs last year (2.1/3.0). This is his leap forward, and while it’s nice, it doesn’t scream “perennial All-Star”.

Matt VW: Earliest by date in calendar season, but Bob Feller threw a no-hitter on opening day. The factoid says more about how the schedule has changed than about precocious pitching dominance.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Yes. Feller’s was thrown on April 16, 1940. he was also throwing about 250 miles an hour at a time when few pitchers were in the 90s.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Ok folks, it’s been lovely chatting with you today — two weeks in a row, how about that? — and we’ll do it again very soon. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011, and a Hall of Fame voter since 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and BlueSky @jayjaffe.bsky.social.

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments